LAPD Chief Beck Denies Crime Numbers Cover Up

November 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck onTuesday strongly denied his agency is doctoring violent crime statistics, calling claims by one of his captains that the department is misleading the public on crime rates “lies.”

“They’re not only lies, they’re damn lies,” Beck told reporters.

“Both the department and the inspector general have looked into similar claims as this over the last several years and found no wrongdoing,” the chief said.

Beck was responding to allegations made by LAPD Capt. Lillian Carranza, who filed a legal claim against the city last week and held a news conference with her attorney Monday, accusing the department of engaging in an “elaborate cover-up” to make violent crime rates appear lower than they really are.

“This piece of deception was done specifically to fool the public and elected officials as to the true state of crime in the city of Los Angeles,” Carranza said.

“The department then engaged in a highly complex and elaborate cover-up in an attempt to hide the fact that command officers had been providing false figures to the public, attempting to convince the public that crime had not significantly increased.”

Carranza claims she has been alerting her superiors about discrepancies in violent crime rates for four years, and says she was passed over for a promotion because of it.

Carranza said she first told superiors about underreporting of violent crime in the LAPD’s Foothill area, but after no action was taken, she also reviewed reports and found similar issues in the Pacific, Central, Hollenbeck and Mission divisions.

Beck insisted the department’s numbers are accurate, saying the agency is continuously reviewing its figures to ensure they are correct.

“If I’m cooking the books, I’m not doing a very good job, because we are up a little over 4 percent in violent crime,” Beck said. “If I wanted to cook the books, believe me, we would not be up in violent crime.”

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing the department’s officers, issued a statement in response to Beck’s comments.

“Chief Beck doth protest too much, the statement said. “In California’s criminal justice system, prior offenses are considered strikes and Chief Beck has accumulated two strikes by overseeing the manipulation of violent crime statistics and this latest allegation, if proven true, would make the chief a three striker.

“It’s time for transparency and honesty to be the foundation of our department, not cooking the books to fool our elected officials and the public.”

LAPD Panel Finds Officers’ Deadly Actions ‘Improper’

September 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Police Commission decided Tuesday that three officers acted improperly last year in killing two people in separate shooting cases.

The commission decided that officers Zackary Goldstein and Andrew Hacoupian violated department policy on the use of deadly force when they fired shots at 46-year-old James Byrd in Van Nuys on Oct. 3, ultimately killing him.

Byrd had thrown a 40-ounce glass beer bottle through the rear window of a patrol car, leading the officers inside to believe they were being shot at, according to police accounts and a report by Chief Charlie Beck.

The officers had been stopped at a red light, about to turn onto Victory Boulevard from Sepulveda Boulevard, when the rear window of the vehicle was shattered.

The officers said that after they got out of the cruiser, they saw Byrd was pointing his hand at them while holding what appeared to be a handgun or dark object.

It was unclear what the man was holding, but an investigation failed to turn up any weapon other than the broken glass bottle found in the back seat of the patrol vehicle, according to Beck’s report.

Beck wrote that while he felt the initial round of shooting was warranted, a second volley by the officers was “out-of-policy” because it did not appear to him that the officers had enough reason to believe they faced “imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”

Before the initial shots, the officers described the damage done by the bottle as resembling that of gunshots.

Beck did not specify how the second use of lethal force fell short of policy, but the account given in his report says that just before they began shooting at Byrd again, one of the officers said Byrd appeared to be in the process of fleeing, while still facing them.

In one officer’s account, Byrd appeared to be turning towards him, so he began firing, while the other officer said Byrd seemed to be “attempting to point the gun at me and my partner again to shoot at us again.”

“At that time, I discharged my weapon again about six to eight rounds, at which point the suspect went down,” the officer said.

Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff cast the dissenting vote on the out-of-policy determination for one officer. The decision was unanimous for the other officer.

In a separate case, the police commission faulted the higher-ranked of the two officers who fatally shot 37-year-old Norma Angelica Guzman on Sept. 27, saying the officer acted out of department policy.

The determination diverges from Beck’s assessment that both officers, Samuel Briggs and Antonio McNeely, acted properly in using deadly force because they had enough reason to fear for their lives or that of a partner’s.

One officer had a rank of a “training officer,” while the other officer’s rank indicates he recently graduated from the academy.

It was unclear from the redacted version of Beck’s report if the more highly ranked officer was Briggs or McNeely, and LAPD media relations officials said they did not have permission to release information about the ranks of either of the officers.

Commissioners did not explain during Tuesday’s meeting how they reached their decisions, and why they disagreed with part of Beck’s determinations.

The shooting occurred near the barber shop at 2120 S. San Pedro St., just south of downtown Los Angeles, at about 9:30 a.m., according to Beck’s report.

Briggs and McNeely, who were from the Newton Division were responding to a report of a woman with a butcher knife standing in front of a barber shop, according to Beck’s report.

When the officers arrived on scene, they determined that Guzman fit the description. Guzman began advancing toward the officers, going from being 70 feet away from the officers to four feet away within 11 seconds, according to Beck’s report.

The report also said that body camera footage shows that despite repeated commands by one of the officers that Guzman drop the knife in her hand, she continued advancing towards the officers, getting as close as four feet away from one of them and yelling “shoot me!”

The officer closest to Guzman fired one round at her, while the second officer who was further away, seeing that Guzman had gotten close to his partner while holding a knife, fired two rounds at her “to stop the deadly threat,” according to Beck’s report.

The officers than called for an ambulance, but Guzman died later at the hospital.

An 8-inch serrated knife was recovered at the scene, according to police reports last year.

Details about recommendations by the Office of the Inspector General, which answers to the commission, were not immediately available Tuesday.

All four officers involved in the shooting cases are on full working duty, LAPD Officer Aareon Jefferson said.

It is up to Beck to take disciplinary steps, if any, against the officers who were determined as acting out of policy.

 

School Closure: Better Safe Than Sorry?

December 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s decision to close all its schools Tuesday in response to a terrorist threat directed at unspecified but multiple campuses was unprecedented, it was also the right thing to do.

It’s easy to criticize when you don’t have to make the decision, or with the benefit of new information, but in our view, Superintendent Ray Cortines’ instinct to protect students, faculty and school employees first than investigate deeper was right on.

The fact that New York officials facing a similar threat decided to keep their schools open should in no way discredit the action taken by LA Unified. Their decision was based on what they knew and when they knew it, and unlike Cortines, with the knowledge that the same threat had been made to another school district: LA Unified.

Let’s face it, recent terrorist events have us all at least a little on edge. Grandiose statements by politicians that we should not be ruled by fear may sound good, but the words are of little comfort to parents concerned about their child’s safety.

We can only imagine how angry parents would be to find out there was a threat but the district did nothing.

The email may have turned out to be a hoax, but that should not mean that the experience was a waste of time and money. It should be looked at as an unexpected, but valuable learning opportunity for the world we live in now.

The information garnered from the district’s response to the threat should now be looked at with a critical lens to identify where district systems and employees performed well and where they failed. Did the robocalls do their job? Did everyone get the call or information? If not, why not?

What if it there had been explosives in the school, would the actions taken have resulted in saving lives?

And lest we forget, the threat of terrorism is not the only danger we live with today. There are threats of nature, like earthquakes and powerful El Nino storms that could cause wide-scale destruction, forcing school closures. Are the emergency notification systems the district has in place sufficient, or do they need to be honed and improved?

These are all questions that should be answered and shared with the public.

So, while we believe LA Unified did the right thing when it closed schools Tuesday, the true test of their success will be what they do with that they have learned.

Chief Beck, Mayor Garcetti Defend LAPD Body Cameras

September 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti Friday defended the city’s policy restricting the release of video from police officer body cameras, saying they want to preserve evidence needed to ensure criminal convictions, and prevent sometimes-embarrassing footage from being publicly aired.

The city began providing body cameras to officers this week in the LAPD’s Mission station. A total of 860 cameras will be distributed to officers in three stations over the next month.

Last Thursday, however, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking the federal agency to deny the city’s request for funding for more cameras, claiming the policy restricting the release of footage hinders the mission of creating transparency.

“By withholding video from the public, requiring officers to review video before making statements in use-of-force and misconduct investigations and failing to include protections against the use of body-worn cameras as general surveillance tools, LAPD’s policy provides no transparency and threatens to taint the integrity of investigations and undermine the public trust,” ACLU staff attorney Peter Bibring wrote.

Garcetti said he respects the ACLU’s position, but he does not support the blanket release of video from the cameras. He said one of the cameras caught footage this week of a domestic-violence case that included an altercation involving the suspect and victim.

“That is not something that should be shared publicly,” Garcetti said.

“We should not have a policy that says automatically that goes out to the public.”

The mayor said he also does not want the public release of footage to taint a criminal investigation, possibly endangering the chances of a conviction in court.

“When we have a bad apple in this department who does something that goes over the line that violates people’s rights and breaks the law, I don’t want anything to taint that (evidence) that should result in a conviction,” he said. “Vice versa, if we have somebody who is doing something criminal against one of our police officers or to another innocent person in this city, I want to make sure that an early release of video doesn’t taint their conviction. This is about ultimate accountability, which is our criminal justice system.”

Beck stressed that the body camera footage will be made fully available to the Office of the Inspector General, which reviews officers’ actions in use-of-force cases, and the city Police Commission, which oversees the LAPD. It will also be provided to the District Attorney’s and City Attorney’s offices on request, he said.

“I know that this is of great interest, especially to people that make their living selling video – this is very, very interesting stuff,” Beck said. “… But remember, we interact with people on their worst day. We interact with people in situations that none of you, if they were your family member, would want made generally public. We have a position of trust with people that call us to respond to their houses to deal with situations that nobody else will deal with, and we want to maintain that level of trust.”

Beck said he does not want a victim of crime to avoid calling police out of fear that video footage of them will be posted online.

“That’s not fair,” he said. “That is not what you expect and that is not what your loved ones expect when you call the police department.”

Garcetti noted that the Police Commission plans to review the body camera policy in six months.

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